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Geographic Variation among Closely Related, Highly Variable Species with a Wide Distribution Range: the South Andean-Patagonian Nassauvia subgenus Strongyloma (Asteraceae, Nassauvieae)

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Morphological variation among the five species of Nassauvia subgenus Strongyloma was assessed through statistical analyses of morphometric traits in populations throughout the southern Andean-Patagonian region. Uni- and multivariate analyses were used to identify patterns of morphological variation in relation to geography. Additionally, species distribution modeling was implemented to relate these patterns to climatic conditions. No well-defined groups could be recovered through multivariate analyses, although we observed some geographic structure. Latitudinal variation was found in leaves, phyllaries and cypselas, with a cline towards the south, where these structures become shorter and wider. Towards the east, the number of flowers per capitulum decreases, and abaxial corolla lips and cypselas become narrower and shorter. Distribution modeling showed several areas of contact and a large overlap of suitable conditions for more than one species, which is mainly related to the mean temperature of winter. Despite an association between morphological variation with geography and climate, actual geographic distributions of the putative species did not entirely match the clinal pattern of morphology, geography, and climate. Further genetic analyses are still needed to identify the probable processes that led to the complex patterns of observed variation.
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Keywords: Morphological variation; South America; multivariate analyses; populations; species complex; species distribution modeling

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2014-03-01

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